FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD is expanding the Wizarding World – but can it stand on its new foundation?
(Minor spoilers ahead)
Here are two things you should know about me: I love Harry Potter and I love movies. So when I bought my ticket to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald at my local cinema, I was both exceptionally excited and nervous. I rewatched the first Fantastic Beasts film last weekend to prepare myself, and I was filled with the same excitement that I felt when I first saw it two years ago. But I knew that The Crimes of Grindelwald would be doing more than following that film; it would be really beginning the conflict of the series: Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) struggle for power.
And the film did set this up, picking up six months after the end of the last film and showing Grindelwald’s escape from the confines of MCUSA. The majority of the film took place in Paris, and one of the best parts of the film was the depiction of the Parisian Wizarding World. Their ministry is full of periwinkle and delicate details, and the introduction to this new facet of magic had me smiling the whole way through. I was also smiling because, as mentioned above, I love Harry Potter. I love the magic and the complexities and the wonder. And this film capitalized on that. When the movie took us back to Hogwarts, I couldn’t contain my excitement. When Nicholas Flamel appeared, I had this giddy bubbling in my stomach.
That’s the thing: I had a thoroughly enjoyable time watching the film. As a fan, I was in wizarding heaven. Almost. Because, though the film was filled with pure magic, it fell short in a few areas. Let’s start at the basics: the plot. Like I said earlier, this film was really setting up the conflict of this franchise. The first movie was fun and hinted at what’s to come, but Newt (Eddie Redmayne) running around New York searching for beasts is not the plot of the franchise, no matter how much I wish it was. But The Crimes of Grindelwald didn’t completely feel like it was starting off an epic adventure. It felt both jam-packed and hollow at the same time. The movie centres on Paris, as everyone searches for Credence (Ezra Miller), who Grindelwald claims he needs to defeat Dumbledore (Jude Law). And while this was exciting, I kept waiting for more to happen. It’s not that there was nothing going on, but rather that the stakes just weren’t high enough to feel like this quest was worth a whole film.
Part of this may be because Grindelwald’s motives weren’t as explored as they could’ve been. We know he wants to rule of the muggle world, but it’s not clearly explained as to why. To save them from themselves in the run-up to WWII? To crush them into subservience? Credence’s side plot, however, did hold weight. As he searched for his birth mother, my heart ached for him. Ezra Miller plays Credence as both incredibly scared but also sharply dangerous, and it is a phenomenal performance. As a whole, the cast was amazing. I was particularly impressed with Joshua Shea, who played Young Newt. One would think it hard to act alongside Eddie Redmayne and match his performance, but Shea is fantastic, getting Newt’s quirks and shyness perfect. Not to mention the impeccable resemblance.
There were many other new storylines and characters introduced in the film. First was Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz). She was one of my favourite parts of the film; her story was really fascinating and complex, and Kravitz was captivating in the role. But other new characters, such as Nagini (Claudia Kim), were underdeveloped. Because of this mix of storylines some of the sophmore characters, such as Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Jacob (Dan Fogler), weren’t as fleshed out as they had been in the first film. Specifically, Queenie’s (Alison Sudol) storyline was not given the time it should have, and as a result the character seemed very different from the kind person she was in the first movie. Newt, however, remained wholesome and sweet, a bright light in every scene. Honestly, we don’t deserve him, but let’s not question it.
Since the introduction of the Fantastic Beasts world and The Cursed Child, many have been questioning whether J.K. Rowling should put down the pen and let the Wizarding World rest. And well I have never been one to think that (I adored Cursed Child), some elements of The Crimes of Grindelwald that had me worried. Rowling is known for her intricate plotting, and you can feel that at work in the film, but the different elements feel haphazardly thrown together at times, not all getting their fair share of depth. Still, I can’t wait to see how everything will play out in the next three movies, where hopefully everything that was introduced here will be further explored.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching this film. Writing this review has made me want to see it again. Yes, the plot could’ve held more weight and the characters could’ve been better handled. And maybe I’m biased, but sitting in that theatre, all I wanted to do was to grab a wand and go join them on their adventure. And isn’t that what really matters?